Why the Marketing Flywheel is Replacing the Marketing Funnel

Why the Marketing Flywheel is Replacing the Marketing Funnel

Check it out what you will find on this article about being a Marketing Flywheel:

 

I can make a good guess of what you’re thinking right now – Really? Like I needed another marketing buzzword in my life! How could it be anything but a simple rehash of old ideas to get everyone excited about nothing. Again! While you will no doubt come across articles claiming how the marketing funnel is dead and the flywheel is the be all and end all, should you really take it seriously? 

 

In the flywheel’s defense, it isn’t a new strategy as much as it is a rethink of a well established process. As great as the marketing funnel is, like all ideas, it had its drawbacks that are becoming all too visible in the digital economy where the customer is more empowered than their peers from the yesteryears. And while one day we will understand all that’s wrong with the marketing flywheel, the idea certainly carries enough merit to warrant a closer look.

But What’s Wrong with the Marketing Funnel?

The idea of a marketing, or purchase funnel goes all the way back to 1898, when E. St. Elmo Lewis developed a theoretical model of how a consumer moves from Awareness to Interest, Desire and finally Action. He labeled this as the AIDA model which was first referenced in Bond Salesmanship by William W. Townsend in 1924. Given it’s remarkable simplicity, the concept became an instant hit with businesses, been called and implemented as the marketing/sales/conversion funnel. 

The marketing funnel has since been used by companies big and small to grow their businesses and has indeed stood the test of time. That being said, the concept belongs in a pre-internet era when companies had a disproportionate amount of leverage over the consumer. Most businesses worked in a top-down fashion where they would pass on information to their prospects and consumers, who had few means to confirm or cross-check what they were receiving. 

All that changed with the arrival of the internet towards the end of the previous century. Suddenly, consumers could go on a forum and find out other buyer’s opinions, shifting the power balance in their favor.

 

The second place where the marketing funnel failed often was that while it drummed up a lot of effort getting the consumer down to making a purchase, it’s woefully silent on what companies should do once they’re in. The funnel does just end at “action,” after all. The consequence here was that companies would often just move to the next shiny prospect while failing to nurture better relationships with their existing customers.

The Rise of the Marketing Flywheel

The flywheel is a device that stores rotational energy by resisting moment of inertia. While James Watts, inventor of the steam engine is commonly associated with flywheel, they have been used since Neolithic times as the potter’s wheel. In marketing parlance, flywheel has become important primarily as a metaphor that puts the customer right at the center rather than the top as the marketing funnel did. 

Marketing, sales and support activities revolve around the customer and their objective changes from trying to sell to trying to delight. In doing so, the customer becomes a key driver for organizational change. Every time the customer adds value to the company, the speed of its marketing flywheel increases, which in turn helps attract more customers. The idea that the customer is central to a business’s existence has always been known. For instance…

  • 56% of customers in a survey reported that they stayed loyal to a company that ‘gets them.”
  • Increasing customer retention by a miniscule 5% can boost profits by 25%-95%.
  • 58% online shoppers reported that rewards and loyalty points were valuable aspects of their shopping experience. 
  • 87% of Americans reported that they allow brands to collect personal information if it helps them provide a more personalized experience. 
  • Brands that are perceived to be trying to make the world a better place outperform the stock market by 134%.
 
 

The marketing flywheel makes intuitive sense for a digital strategy. Customers are actively telling the brands they trust what they want and are ever more proactive in sharing their views through social media. A company’s existence thus depends not just on how many customers it can add to its portfolio, but how good a relationship they forge with them post purchase.

How to Transition from a Marketing Funnel to a Marketing Flywheel

The flywheel stores and releases energy based on three factors…

  1. 1. It’s size.
  2. 2. The rate of spin. And,
  3. 3. Friction.
 
 

The larger, heavier the flywheel is, the more energy it can store. The faster the flywheel spins, the more energy it stores and the less friction it has, the more energy it has for a longer duration. The analogy applies to marketing pretty well. Firstly, the momentum your marketing flywheel has isn’t because of a single act, rather it’s due to the overall volume of effort which gets lesser and lesser with each iterative spin. So, while the flywheel may require some effort up-front to get it going, once you reach a certain threshold, it starts to work pretty much off of its own momentum.The idea itself isn’t entirely new and has been discussed at length in continuous delivery models.

Each of the three aspects apply to business practices…

The size and weight of your marketing flywheel: Your customer base is the size of the flywheel and the goodwill they have for your brand constitutes its weight. The larger and heavier the flywheel is, the more momentum it carries, consequently the faster and more effortlessly it spins.

The rate of spin: A flywheel requires some effort to keep it going. Your marketing system thus needs to create and publish content on a regular basis in order to keep your flywheel spinning. Each time you publish a blog post or article, or send out an email to your customers, you give your flywheel a gentle push, adding to its momentum. 

When starting out, your flywheel will require quite a few “pushes” to get it to spin at a respectable speed and it may seem like a waste of time as it leads to little or no pay-off. But, the more you push it, the lesser it will require to keep going and eventually it will be able to spin due to its accumulated energy.

Friction: Friction between the flywheel and its axle can rob it of its momentum, causing it to bleed energy and lose efficiency. Misalignment between your marketing and sales, slow response times to customer issues and dissatisfied customers, all can create friction in your flywheel. The lesser the friction is, the faster and longer your marketing flywheel spins on its own momentum. Consequently, the lesser effort it will require on your part.

While the marketing flywheel is no doubt a great model to follow, turning it into real world practical application is easier said than done. Even though specialization, segmentation, compartmentalization and silos certainly helps companies run their operations smoothly, they can quickly turn into a disadvantage if each team ends up becoming a special interest group, pursuing its own agenda.

 

The key takeaway here is that all the departments of your company need to be properly aligned, passing on accurate, updated information to their peers as and when it’s required so that the customer’s requirements are met as fast as possible. The quicker you can address their needs, the bigger, heavier and faster your flywheel becomes.

All About Finding and Removing Inefficiencies

The marketing flywheel rewards fast, efficient and targeted work. Emerging marketing technologies are in many ways part of this paradigm shift, helping brands understand their customers better and create a more personalized experience for them. Runrun.it for example is a complete end-to-end productivity suite with time and task tracking technologies that can help you plan and execute your tasks with great ease. We provide the perfect foundation for your marketing flywheel to spin on. We also have a free trial so feel free to give it a whirl!

Marketing Flywheel

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